The objective of these posts is to share some takeaways and thoughts about some the most interesting articles I comes across in areas of particular interest to myself including Foreign Policy/International Law, the Environment as well as national issues of concern like BREXIT. In the main this to a journey of discovery for myself to help me make sense of the many difficult and sometimes conflicting choices we come across in these areas. I do hope you may find these posts useful in someway as a resource that contributes to the overall discussion on these matters.
Article Review – It’s politics, not piety, stupid by Alex Spillius
This is a very interesting article published by Chatham House – link below and would recommend reading – providing a completely different take to conflicts in the Middle East. Proponents of this view argue that the use of the term “Sectarianism” is an oversimplification of realties in the region. While sectarianism is a problem it is by no means the root issue at play in most of the conflicts involved. As such it’s been used as a lazy catch-all term that has been used by politicians to explain events they fail to understand-a term of convince if you will. Central to this theory, which I fully endorse – is that authoritarian leaders whether monarchs, supreme leaders, military generals or perennially elected politicians have fanned the flames of sectarianism as a mean of self-preservation or self-interest. The proponents of this theory then go through major political events/uprisings that the region has witnessed recently to demonstrate how they support this perspective; from the initial peaceful calls for democracy in Syria by a cross-section of Syrian society (Sunni – Alawis – Druz – Christians) to the Bahrain Arab Spring protest in 2011, to the current conflict in Yemen which again began with a common ground uniting the Sunni Islah opposition party and the Zaydi form of Shia Islam in the north in seeking to improve political accountability. The article also highlights 2 main turning points that helped escalate the tension between these 2 sects;
- The overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and the response of Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes which portrayed the Iranian revolution as a distinctly Shia-Persian phenomenon based on the corruption of Islamic tradition.
- The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 where social/political tensions long restrained and possibly used by Saddam Hussain where rapidly unleashed/transformed into a sectarian civil war.
So the key take away from this article is that in the Middle East what sometimes seems too obvious can sometimes be obviously wrong. The problem is compounded by western politicians tendency to oversimplify and more importantly intervene based on flawed analysis/perceptions. This indeed has been the sad history of western interference in the region and the root cause of many of the conflicts we see today. In situations where the west has not actually created such conflicts they helped prolong & exacerbate them. So a word to the wise; get the advice of experts and do not rely solely on political positions or be overly concerned with expediency. In the realms of foreign policy what may take decades to build can be destroyed in an instant due to flawed perceptions/understandings.
So it turns out; It’s all about Democracy stupid.